Dehydrated foods

As I have previously explained, I am diabetic, which is a condition that can cause a lot of medical problems. But on close examination, it appears that those problems are almost entirely due to having excessively high blood sugars. That is the problem of the diabetic, but it is something you can manage if you make up your mind to do so. I have made such a decision, and it is working out well. So what is high anyway?

My doctor focuses on the A1c test:

The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and to monitor how well you’re managing your diabetes. The A1C test goes by many other names, including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1C and HbA1c.

The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/a1c-test/about/pac-20384643

So what is high on this scale?

For someone who doesn’t have diabetes, a normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent. If your A1C level is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, you have prediabetes (also called impaired fasting glucose), which means you have a high risk of developing diabetes in the future.

An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate occasions shows that you have diabetes. An A1C level above 8 percent means that your diabetes is not well-controlled and you have a higher risk of developing complications of diabetes.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/a1c-test/about/pac-20384643

In my case, at my last blood test, in August 2019, my A1c was 5.3, and according to the chart from the Mayo Clinic, that indicates I don’t have diabetes. But I know I do, and I take two oral medications every day, exercise most mornings, and I am very careful about what I eat. And it the last of these that is most important for controlling Diabetes. No amount of medications or exercise will magically protect you from bad eating. And the rule I follow is a lot like what Michael Pollan advocates:

Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20090323/7-rules-for-eating#1

“Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20090323/7-rules-for-eating#1

In my case, it means I also avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates, so no french fries or nachos. No bread, no rice, no sugar. But what do you do if you want just a little nosh in the afternoon, but the bag of chips is off-limits? I have found that dehydrated foods work very well for me. I can get kale chips (which are delicious! Really!), and they have no carbs to speak of. And there are lots of dried vegetables at the supermarket, and they are better than eating Twinkies. However, better is not always good in any absolute sense. When I took a good look at the ingredients list, I noticed they frequently had a lot of things I was not happy about eating. So I bought a dehydrator and started making my own.

The one I bought on Amazon is called the Nesco FD-37A, and it was inexpensive, at about $40 US. And then I started experimenting with making some of my own dehydrated foods. And I learned a few things along the way. The first is to do a some preparation. You can get a lot of help just from Google if you look. For example, the Outdoor site REI has a great How-to page at https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-to-dehydrate-food. Alternatively, you can purchase a book. I did that just so I could get a little more in-depth information than a web page would provide. The one I got was The Beginner’s Guide to Dehydrating Food, 2nd Edition: How to Preserve All Your Favorite Vegetables, Fruits, Meats, and Herbs, but there are plenty of other options.

The next question you need to answer is what you are dehydrating the food for. Dehydrated food will keep quite a long time if prepared properly and stored properly. In my case, long-term storage was not the main point. But it can be very handy if you are going backpacking, for instance, since dehydrated food gives you a lot of nutrition with very little weight, since most of the weight in the food is water. For that you might want sealed plastic bags. That is why the outdoor site REI has all of this information, since backpackers and other outdoors types are a big part of their audience. And foods with a high fat content are not suitable since they can go rancid with long-term storage. For me, though, I am eating them regularly as part of my meals and snacks, so I just dry them and put them in covered plastic containers. The important thing is to get out virtually all of the water. If you put a batch in a container, that is sealed, check it again some hours later and make sure you don’t see any condensation. If you see that, it isn’t done, and you should put it back in the dehydrator for a longer time. For most of the things I do, I dry them for about 24 hours. And if you ever see any mold, chuck out the whole batch, no sense in taking chances, though I have to say that has not yet happened to me.

In addition to the dehydrator, I have a good chef’s knife, and two spray bottles, one with lemon juice, the other with olive oil. Most fruit will darken pretty bad if you don’t give it a spray with the lemon juice. A quick spritz on both sides will keep it appetizing. And for the vegetables, a spray of olive oil will let you add some spice (I like Adoba!) that will stick to the vegetables. Other than that, I tried using a Mandoline, but after getting emergency stitches to my thumb I just use a knife. It is safer for me, at least.

When you first start you will probably be amazed at the shrinkage. Most fruits and vegetables are very high in water, and once you dry them out they have shriveled to almost nothing. Which means you want to start with large pieces if possible, particularly with the vegetables, which for me have the most shrinkage. Here are some of my favorites:

Fruits

Bananas – Peel the bananas, and slice them in about 1/4 inch or 1/2 centimeter slices. If you slice them usual way, they will be like large coins. Give them a quick squirt with the lemon juice. When dry, they will sound like plastic poker chips, but be a very nice little snack.

Apples – Core the apples, but leave the peel on. I cut mine in half to make it easier to cut out the core. Slice in about 3/8 inch or nearly 1 centimeter slices, and spray on both sides with lemon juice. A dash of cinnamon would be very nice as well.

Oranges – Peel large oranges so that there is no white left, and slice in about 3/8 inch or nearly 1 centimeter slices. You don’t need the lemon juice here.

Cherries – Pit and cut in half, give a little squirt of lemon juice.

Vegetables

Zucchini – My favorite, I eat a lot of these. Cut the ends off of zucchinis, then slice on the bias, i.e. not strait across but at a steep angle, not quite cutting them lengthwise. Cut in at least 1/2 inch or more than 1 centimeter slices. Spray with olive oil on both sides, add a dash of Adoba seasoning. Yellow summer squash can be prepared the same way, or for something a little different, try cucumber. These thick slices take a little longer to dry, but something will be left when they do.

Carrots – Cut the ends off, but don’t peel. Cut the carrots into 4 inch or 10 centimeter sections, then slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch or 1/2 centimeter slices. Blanch in boiling water (i.e let them boil for a couple of minutes, take them out, and sprinkle some Ranch seasoning on them. A good recipe is at https://addapinch.com/homemade-ranch-seasoning-mix-recipe/.

String Beans –

Cut the ends off of the string beans, blanch as with the carrots, then sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar.

Butternut squash – Peel, remove the seeds, then slice into 1/4 inch or 1/2 centimeter slices. Blanch in boiling water (i.e let them boil for a couple of minutes, take them out, and sprinkle some Ranch seasoning on them. Slightly different flavor to the carrots.

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